Since the last blog the CCT has all been away enjoying R and R [rest and recuperation]. For myself, I spent a lot of time on the beach and by the pool sunning myself, with a few beers enjoying the heat without my Osprey on! Andy spent his having some serious catch up family time with his wife and children and the OC spent his hiking in the Peak District.
We had various delays, for myself I got delayed for two days on my way back from Cyprus which as you can imagine wasn’t such a hardship, although the team leader and Andy got delayed on the way back to UK which didn’t work out so well for them!
My favourite week
The last two weeks back in Afghan have absolutely flown by literally for myself and Andy. Once unpacked, Andy and I got ourselves down to the flight line to finish off the flying side of operations which we had started before R and R.
It’s probably been my favourite week of the tour so far because the main bulk of the workload for me has been filming the Merlin crew as they deliver troops and a variety underslung cargo all over Helmand.
With a safety harness attached to us we basically had the freedom to move around the ‘cab’ as we saw fit which meant that I had a licence to hang out of the rear ramp and side doors to my heart’s content. The variety of the Helmand landscape has got to be seen to be believed. One minute we were low level flying through the desert and the next, high above the green zone surrounding the Helmand River.
The hardest part was trying to keep the camera still in the massive downdraft that is created when picking up and dropping off the under slung load. For the first trip the OC had to brace himself behind me without which I would have definitely ended up a few feet in the wrong direction, and the second time I ended up backwards on the floor which I’m fairly sure gave the pilots a bit of a laugh!
When we weren’t clocking up the flying hours we were back in the aircraft hangars documenting the maintenance that goes on in the background. We filmed the Chinook being re-wired after a bullet hit its rear window and the removal of a Merlin’s engine in order to re-place the seal. They are definitely the unsung heroes of the Air Force so it was really nice to hear the appreciation the pilot and the loadmaster had for them, in the interviews. As many of you back in UK will be aware we have also had the vigil and ramp service for the three military personnel who were repatriated back home earlier this week. As always, it’s a sad time for everyone involved, especially as it’s so close to the end of the tour for many.
When I haven’t been down at the flight line, we have been accumulating messages for the serving and ex-serving military personnel who will be competing in this year’s Paralympic events. For some of the military competitors, it is down to the outstanding medical care and treatment that they received out here that has enabled them to reach the level of recuperation needed to be able to compete, so it was a good opportunity for the Emergency Medical Teams out here to send their best wishes and support.
We are coming up to our last few weeks out here and the diary is looking pretty full. For myself I am going to be going out with the civilian media team from Headquarters Land Forces, alongside my new team leader Captain Rich Willing. It sounds like we have a pretty full programme and will be all over the place covering a variety of stories, so I am looking forward to getting stuck into that. Andy has got a series of jobs lined up to keep him busy so we’ll have lots of footage to compare when we get back to base.